PROJECT Garden of Australian Dreams
LOCATION National Museum of Australia, ACT
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Room 4.1.3
Challenging conventional ideas of landscape design and the tension between culture and nature, the design of the Garden of Australian Dreams stands in marked contrast to the picturesque setting of the Acton site. Variously called the 'Playground of Australian Dreams' and the 'Garden of Australian Nightmares', Room 4.1.3's design of the Garden of Australian Dreams is both provocative and memorable.
A truncated circular-shaped lower level courtyard is surrounded by buildings and overlooked, through portholes, from the main entry terrace. Access to the garden is indirect, requiring navigation through the main hall, down a flight of stairs, along a corridor and through ubiquitous glass doors. After passing through a crescent of deciduous trees, planted at an angle on grassed mounds, the viewer is confronted with a contoured ground surface overlaid with multiple grids, text and wandering tangled lines.
A plantation of Eucalypts terminates the view and a black tunnel and white cube invite exploration. The cube, together with palm tree, kidney-shaped pool, lawn and perched gnome, provide a comforting suburban reference. The cube also becomes an ethereal container from which to view the sky. A second access point through the Gallery of the First Australians is obscured by a heavy metal awning.
References and symbols abound. A mannerist approach to horticultural elements and the association of tunnel and cube with grotto and folly continue European garden traditions, whereas surface undulations, water treatment, scale and exposure, together with the use of materials, simulate an Australian continental experience. Topographic installations provide a narrative of land exploration and appropriation and include surveyors' staffs, fences, flood level gauges and dead trees. Cultural icons, such as a set of blue poles, are also referenced.
Head of Landscape Architecture, School of Environmental Design,
University of Canberra, Canberra ACT 2601.